Bhubaneswar: Sravan Mandangi could only marvel at his good fortune, when he stepped forward to collect his recurve team gold medal in the Khelo India University Games (KIUG) here on Wednesday.
It was many, many years ago, when he was barely a kid, that he and his sister Soni had enrolled in the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences’ school. Hailing from an Adivasi tribal family, the siblings had no idea about education or sport.
But slowly they got entrenched into the system and made steady progress in not just their studies but also in sport. Both are now part of the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University, with Sravan representing them in archery and sister Sony in rugby in the ongoing games.
The brother and sister are a perfect example of how the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences is helping kids in the state. Not just free education, all through their growing up years, they enjoy free accommodation, food, health care and sporting equipment like a number of other kids.
“I took up archery when I was in the seventh standard at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences. Our father, an Adivasi, is now a farmer. Each and everything is provided for by the KIIT and this is our home. We go to our village only once a year… during summer holidays,” Sravan said, just after taking his gold medal.
“My next target is the Senior Nationals. I will be taking part in the team as well as individual events. I hope to make it to the National Games from there,” he added.
Soni is charting her own path towards success too. As part of the KIIT rugby team, she played a key role in thrashing Panjab University 43-0 in a Pool match on Thursday.
“Back in our village, I didn’t study or play any sport. When my parents got to know that there is a school for Adivasi children here, my father promptly enrolled us. Just a couple of years or so later, in 2007, students from our institute representing India, won the International School Rugby Tournament in London. And that inspired me to take up the sport,” the 19-year-old said.
What she doesn’t say is that she not only took up the sport but has also gone on to represent the Junior India team in rugby.
Her modesty extends only till there though. When prodded a little, Soni had no hesitation in articulating that she wanted to be as famous as Sachin Tendulkar someday.
“This year, I want to play in the senior Indian team. I have worked quite hard and, hopefully, I will make it,” she declared.
“My eventual dream is to be as famous as Sachin. True, rugby is not a very popular sport in India; it is big in Odisha but certain districts are still not familiar with it. So I want to raise awareness and spread the sport across the state,” she added.